Mark Cantor


Mark Cantor was born in Los Angeles, California in 1948. Mark grew up listening to the great jazz, blues and “pop” sounds heard throughout the metropolitan Los Angeles area. Mark began collecting jazz records as a teenager, and soon discovered jazz on film. He has concentrated on locating, researching and jazz films since the late 1960s, and the Celluloid Improvisations Music Film Archive now contains more than 4,000 individual performances.

A graduate of the Los Angeles public schools, Mr. Cantor attended the University of California at Santa Barbara and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature and history, with a minor in music, in 1971. He began a teaching career in 1971 and retired from the classroom in June 2011.

Mr. Cantor currently lives in Agoura Hills, California, where he serves as the owner and director of the Celluloid Improvisations Music Film Archive.

“Mark Cantor has one of the very best collections of jazz films in the world. He was an invaluable asset to our Jazz series whose generous advice helped us unearth some extraordinary footage. Mark is an essential resource to anyone making a film about jazz.”
—- Ken Burns


Film archivist and historian Mark Cantor has been active as a researcher and preservationist in the area of music on film for the past forty-five years. During that time he has assembled one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of popular music on film existing in the United States…..well over four thousand performances in total. Although the collection focuses on jazz and blues performance, it also includes such related musical forms as folk, ragtime, Swing (“big band”), nightclub & cabaret, vaudeville, vernacular (jazz) dance, “ethnic,” Latin, country-western, Western Swing, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, and “pop.” His interests range from the earliest of ragtime forms, as first recorded late in the nineteenth century, to the most contemporary expressions of the art form.

For the past thirty-five years Mr. Cantor has presented a widely acclaimed series of public jazz-film clip presentations entitled “Celluloid Improvisations.” These screenings have been shared at such prestigious locations as The Samuel Goldwyn Theater (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Los Angeles, California), Center Green Theater, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Ebony Repertory Theater on behalf of Playboy Enterprises and the American Film Institute (1983-2012); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1998-2003); California Afro-American Museum (1985, 1995, 1998-99); the National Association of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) (1994-1999); Festival Dei Popoli (Florence, Italy) (1985-1986); Free Jazz Festival (Rio De Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1991 & 1995); Stanford Jazz Society (2002-2003); University of California at Santa Barbara (2003-04); Duke Ellington Society (1992-2007); Pacific Film Archive (Berkeley, California) (1982-1996); Monterey Jazz Festival (1996, 2001); Northwest Film Study Center (Portland, Oregon) (1982-1996); Experience Music Project (Seattle, Washington) (2002-2007); Telluride Jazz Festival (Telluride, Colorado) (1983-l984); Pikes Peak Jazz Society (2001-2002); Mark Taper Forum (Los Angeles Music Center) (1984); San Diego Cinema Society (1985; 2003); “Jazz In the City” / San Francisco Jazz Festival (San Francisco, California) (1984-l994); International Association of Jazz Record Collectors (1987-2007); Healdsberg Jazz Festival (2000-20010); Los Angeles Filmforum (1976-1993); Benson & Hedges Blues Festival (1990-1991); Cinematheque Francaise (1999-2001); “Back To Balboa,” “Early Autumn,” “Jazz West Coast,” “Blowin’ Up A Storm” jazz conferences (1992-1998), and San Francisco Jewish Community Center (2004-12).

In the fall of 1994 Mr. Cantor produced the first Playboy Jazz Film Festival: “From Bix To Bird,” a comprehensive retrospective of feature films, selected short subjects and documentaries featuring jazz and blues performance.

Along with the public exhibitions of jazz and blues films Mr. Cantor has served as a consultant in the production of a large number of documentaries and feature film presentations. His footage has been widely used by television/documentary/CD ROM producers, and has been shared in such presentations as “The Soundies: Music For the Eyes”; “Celebrating Bird”; “The Many Faces of Billie Holiday”; “Satchmo”; “Glenn Miller – America’s Musical Hero”; “Thelonius Monk: Monk’s Music”; “Benny Goodman: Adventures In The Land Of Swing”; the Academy Award-nominated “A Great Day In Harlem,” and its follow-up, “The Spitball Story”; “Ella Fitzgerald – Something To Live For.” Mr. Cantor was a consultant and archivist for both the Showtime special “It’s Black Entertainment” as well as Ken Burns’ nineteen-hour television documentary “Jazz.” In 2007 Mr. Cantor was the lead consultant and on-screen commentator for the PBS special “Soundies: A Musical History.”
As a well-known authority on the subject of music on film, Mr. Cantor is contacted on a regular basis by filmmakers, television producers, newspersons and writers for information relating to jazz music and its documentation on film. He regularly publishes articles on jazz film in the Journal of the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors and the Belgian publication Names & Numbers.

Mr. Cantor is a retired educator who taught all levels of school from kindergarten through college extension. He has written liner notes for jazz recordings and has assisted in their production. Mr. Cantor is currently writing a book on Panoram SOUNDIES, which will be the definitive work on these “music videos” (juke box film shorts) of the 1940’s. Check Mark out on Michael Feinstein’s Great American Songbook